A few examples of broad research questions that address some of the challenges described above are: What effect is climate change likely to have on the food security of those living in the rural areas of South Africa, and how can such effects be mitigated? How can the management of ecosystem services within the southern African social-ecological system more effectively and directly assist in the alleviation of poverty? Can the benefits provided by ecosystem products and services in Africa be more effectively utilised by the local communities?
These complex social-ecological systems problems, responsible for Africa’s sustainability challenges, behave in a non-linear and unpredictable manner, which can affect a diverse range of stakeholders and interest groups in different ways. Therefore, addressing sustainability problems is normally a highly contested process. In this context, the Transdisciplinary PhD Programme encourages participatory multi-stakeholder research that is aimed at gaining an integrated understanding of both the material and non-material determinants underlying Africa's sustainability challenges.
Last Updated on Friday, 11 January 2013 12:23
As complex social-ecological systems behave in a non-linear and unpredictable manner, they can affect a diverse range of stakeholders and interest groups in different ways. Consequently, addressing sustainability problems is normally a highly contested process.
Given the multiple boundaries that counter the effective implementation of transdisciplinary approaches to knowledge generation, addressing sustainability challenges in a transdisciplinary way require extensive ‘boundary-crossing’. Examples of critical research questions in this regard are listed below:
Last Updated on Monday, 14 January 2013 13:39
This PhD programme encourages research aimed at gaining an integrated understanding of both the material (e.g. institutional arrangements, economic concerns) and the non-material (e.g. the values, norms and beliefs of individuals and societal groups) determinants underlying the sustainability challenges in southern Africa in its global context. Some examples of questions relating to such determinants are as follows:
How do we define and embrace the ethical and spiritual dimensions of sustainability challenges? How can nature be valued for its intrinsic worth and given representation in decision-making processes? How can empathic values be embodied in decision-making within complex social-ecological systems?
What are the interior (intangible, subjective, normative) dimensions of sustainability, and how can such dimensions be included in decision-making? In what way does the mental model that we have of various environmental challenges affect our ability to address them? What knowledge systems and forms of consciousness have been marginalised in the mainstream approach to sustainability challenges, and what role can the former play in addressing such challenges in the future?
What is the role of leadership in determining sustainability outcomes, and what are the related civic responsibilities? How can the relationship between science, public policy and policy implementation be improved to address sustainability challenges more effectively? What is needed to facilitate transitions towards sustainable practices?
What are the defining characteristics of economics for a sustainable society? How can development be decoupled from material consumption and resource use? How can equity be achieved and sustained in the distribution of – and access to – ecosystem goods and services?
How can the material and resource flows that support human settlements be managed sustainably? In what way can transport systems promote sustainable urban development? What is the specific role of women in establishing sustainable human settlements, and how can their views be more effectively incorporated into decision-making?
How do we promote resilience within coupled social-ecological systems, particularly under conditions of change that has been triggered, for example, by extreme events? What interventions are required to build up and maintain the resilience of vulnerable, especially poor, communities? How do we recognise and adapt to tipping points and thresholds in the capacity of social-ecological systems to deliver goods and services?
How can technology facilitate achieving the goals of sustainability and support a reduction in resource consumption? How can technology contribute to water, food and energy security? In what ways do traditional (unsustainable) technologies erect barriers to sustainable practices, economies, societies, governance and technologies?
How can we understand society, the economy and the natural environment as part of a complex social-ecological system? What process should be followed, and tools used, in conceptualising complex social-ecological systems in varying contexts? What are the implications of complexity theory for the ways in which we learn about and address sustainability challenges within social-ecological systems?
How can we effectively integrate different knowledge-systems across disciplinary, institutional, sectoral and cultural boundaries? How can we undertake stakeholder engagement processes in a way that more effectively incorporates the views of a range of different stakeholders – their diversity of values and worldviews? Is a shared language possible between different disciplines and stakeholders? If so, how do we develop such a language?
Last Updated on Monday, 14 January 2013 13:42
This new Doctoral Programme is offered by Stellenbosch University (SU) in partnership with its strategic partners the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and Sustainability Institute (SI). This transdisciplinary PhD Programme has emerged in response to the global challenge of sustainability and the need for knowledge of complex inter-related social-ecological systems. In order to understand and be able to respond to such a challenge, we need new ways of knowing and producing knowledge that will make it possible to develop an integrated understanding of such systems. Complex global sustainability challenges relating, for example, to poverty, energy, water, waste, food security, biodiversity, urbanization, conflict, gender, values and identity cannot be understood and addressed using mono-disciplinary approaches. Sustainability is a transdisciplinary challenge. Engaging with this challenge, the Doctoral Programme provides participants with a unique experience of learning beyond disciplinary boundaries.
In the light of the extreme poverty prevailing in sub-Saharan Africa, the region is unlikely to reach the target set in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of halving poverty by the end of 2015. The level of vulnerability of its inhabitants to food insecurity has increased, due to the degradation of the natural environment Climate change poses a serious medium- and long-term threat to ecosystems in southern Africa. Increases in temperature will lead, not only to the greater frequency of extreme events, but also to the depletion of the region’s biodiversity and the shrinkage of its already scarce water resources. South Africa experiences many of the problems that beset the sub-region and sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. Such problems are exacerbated by the very large number of people living with HIV and AIDS in the region.
The complex social-ecological systems problems responsible for Africa’s sustainability challenges behave in a non-linear and unpredictable manner, which can affect a diverse range of stakeholders and interest groups in different ways. Therefore, addressing sustainability problems is normally a highly contested process. In this context, the PhD Programme encourages participatory multi-stakeholder research that is aimed at gaining an integrated understanding of both the material and non-material determinants underlying Africa's sustainability challenges.
For a more detailied view of Africa's sustainability challenges, please download this important document:
Last Updated on Monday, 14 January 2013 13:29